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Hernando Aviation Authority chairman accused of defamation

Hernando County Aviation Authority Chairman Gary Schraut is the second official with ties to Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport to be sued by a tenant recently.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Hernando County Aviation Authority Chairman Gary Schraut is the second official with ties to Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport to be sued by a tenant recently.

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Aviation Authority Chairman Gary Schraut has become the second official linked to Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport to be sued by an airport tenant for defamation recently.

Worldwide Aircraft Services and company principal Michael Honeycutt are seeking monetary damages and an injunction to stop Schraut from making derogatory comments about them.

Honeycutt operates the air ambulance company known as Jet ICU. He contends that Schraut told a Tampa Bay Times reporter that Honeycutt and his company were "troublemakers, were liars, were bomb throwers and were like terrorists.''

Honeycutt alleges that Schraut — without naming him specifically — referred to him as part of what Schraut called the "Fab Five," or the fabricating five. According to the suit, Honeycutt determined that he was one of the group Schraut was referring to, based on people he deals with and "recent events at the airport.''

Honeycutt contends that Schraut made the statements to interfere with his business, drive him out of business and take back Jet ICU's leased space at the airport.

The statements could also have been made to bring shame, disgrace, embarrassment and indignity to Honeycutt and his company and discredit them, the complaint says.

While Honeycutt is seeking damages, he acknowledges in the lawsuit that it would be "hard to quantify'' the damage done by Schraut's statements.

Schraut did not return a call seeking comment on the suit.

Several weeks ago, Robert Rey sued Don Silvernell, the recently retired manager of the airport, for slander. Rey, who manages aircraft under the name Jet Concepts, alleges that Silvernell told Paul Douglas that Rey was "a crook, that he doesn't pay his bills and that he is financially incompetent.'' Douglas was considering leasing the defunct air center property at the time.

Rey's suit also alleges that Silvernell told Honeycutt's company not to do business with Rey because he and Jet Concepts were not authorized to operate at the airport. If they did business with Rey, the management and staff of the airport would not support them, Rey alleged.

Because of that interference, Rey says Jet ICU, where he houses his clients' aircraft, has been reluctant to participate in joint projects and that others have been reluctant to maintain business relationships with him.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando Aviation Authority chairman accused of defamation 08/20/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 6:27pm]
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